A SHERPA has claimed that the desire to be the first woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000 metre mountains may have been a factor in the deaths of two American climbers and their Sherpas on Shishapangma.
A series of avalanches on Saturday claimed several victims as 52 climbers attempted to peak the world’s 14th highest mountain.
American Anna Gutu and her guide Mingmar Sherpa were confirmed dead by Chinese state media on Sunday. On Monday the deaths of Gina Rzucidlo and Tenjen Sherpa were also confirmed. A number of other climbers and guides were injured.
Both Gutu and Rzucidlo were pursuing the title of being the first American woman to summit all the ‘Eight Thousanders’. Each had completed 13 peaks, with just the summit of Shishapangma left.
After descending to safety and crossing the border back into Nepal for medical treatment, injured Sherpas told ExplorersWeb of their experiences, with one pointing a finger at the competition between the two climbers.
“Everything was going smoothly, but the competition between the two ladies ruined everything,” said experienced mountain guide Mingma G who was leading the ‘Imagine Nepal’ expedition.
“Was a horrible expedition, I didn’t expect it would turn out like that.”
The Sherpa explained he had fallen 150m during an attempt to rescue his colleague Karma Gyalzen who had been hurt in an avalanche at 7,300m.
“Phurba Sonam was taking control of the belay rope and I saw that he was about to get his feet tangled in it, so I managed to clear the rope quickly from his boots,” he recalled.
“While doing so, I slipped. I tried to stop myself and was almost successful twice, but my body was already too tired, and I continued sliding down. While I was falling, I saw a big rock getting closer to me and I was sure I would break bones. I tried to miss the rock, which I did. Then I hit other, smaller rocks, but on more snowy terrain. That’s why I survived.”
Junior Sherpa performed CPR
When colleagues got to him, Mingma G was unconscious and not breathing. Junior guide Punde Sherpa was first at the scene and immediately began performing CPR – an act witnessed by fellow Imagine Nepal team member Sasko Kedev.
“We saw how the young sherpa performed CPR on Mingma,” said the Macedonian.
“Luckily, after some chest compressions and a few breaths in, Mingma G reacted and recovered consciousness.”
Mingma G then, remarkably, simply stood up, brushed off the offers of further help, and began to calmly walk down the mountain. He is currently in hospital in Kathmandu where a CTI scan revealed he had a fractured skull and a broken cocyx.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have suspended all activity on the mountain until further notice. October is one of the most popular months for Shishapangma expeditions following monsoon season, but it has been blighted by avalanches in recent years. Several scientists in the area say climate change is the likely cause.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Gina Rzucidlo’s sister Christy paid tribute to the Massachussets born adventurer…
“Through tear-filled eyes and with an enormous hole in my heart, I type this post that I never thought I would have to make. The Rzucidlo family wants to share that Chinese authorities have declared my sister Gina and her Sherpa Tenjen Lama as deceased. China has halted all activity on Mount Shishapangma due to unsafe snow conditions and has closed the mountain for the season. Requests for search by helicopter from Nepal have been declined by the Chinese government. We have been told the search for their bodies may resume in the spring once weather conditions are favorable. Thank you to everyone who has reached out and kept us in their thoughts. We appreciate every prayer that was made hoping for a miracle.“
The person now closest to being the first American woman to conquer the ‘big 14’ was also on Shishapangma as expedition doctor.
However, Tracee Metcalfe, with 10 of the summits under her belt, has been very open about her dislike of records.
“I climb for the joy of climbing and have never been interested in records,” she told ExplorersWeb.
“I do not like this record fever at all. I feel it detracts from the experience of climbing. I used to enjoy all parts of the expedition, the trek in, doing rotations, getting to know the team etc. Now everyone is in such a big rush.
“I also think that there are people climbing now who are in it for perhaps the wrong reasons? Things like social media attention? Like I said before, I enjoy the beauty of the mountains, and this is the reason why I climb so naturally. These competitions do not sit well with me.”
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